Relatively early on in the “Administrative and Critical Communications Research” article, Lazarsfeld describes the climate and culture of the U.S. as an “advertising culture.” While at first it’s hard to argue against his point, you scan for the date, and alas, this article was written more than 70 years ago! If only he were alive to see the present state of American culture…we’ll just have to assume he’s spinning in his grave.
Today’s advertising and marketing is in fact all around us. From product packaging marketing on fast food cups and bags, our favorite artists and actors drinking a Coke or Pepsi on our “reality” television show, to the clothing worn by today’s youth adorned with visible brand logos and messages, and our news programs covering the best commercials of the Super Bowl…advertising and marketing has become part of everyday American life.
Let me draw your eyes to a passage on pg. 169 where Lazarsfeld writes, “Modern media of communication have become such complex instruments that wherever they are used they do much more to people than those who administer them mean to do.” I, without a doubt, believe that advertising has impacted social views and life in general over the past 70 years; but I also believe that because advertisers are having to work harder and harder for “the message” to stick in the minds of Americans that it demonstrates our ability to discern fact from fiction. We know we are being advertised and marketed to—I do believe many American are conscious of this.
I stumbled upon a world traveler and blogger, ‘Benny the Irish Polyglot,’ and a post he wrote about the 17 cultural reasons a European never wants to live in America. I really want to hone in on his sixth reason, “Cheesy in-your-face marketing.” Why tell you what he says, when he says it best?
“I feel like scraping out my eyes with toothpicks when I’m forced to endure advertising in America. Make it stop. Most Americans aren’t even aware of it – it’s on all the time so much that it becomes nothing more than background noise. And this means that advertisers have to be even louder to get through to people. It’s a vicious circle that drives any non-American not used to it bonkers.”
In many ways, this is true—and here’s someone pointing out the same culture analyzed 70 years ago by Lazarsfeld. But what I struggle to admit is that we have subconsciously changed our moral threads and fabrics due to advertising? Reporting and news, I believe so entirely, but advertising and marketing, I struggle to say “Yes, it has changed us as a Nation.” I will leave the Happy Meal out of the advertising equation and plow forward with the text.
I jokingly laugh that I, and I hope many others, will not truly think and feel that peace begins and inner-strength and courage built, by drinking a beer at home by the fireplace. Some things are merely an advertising ploy, not a cultural shift to peacetime in a pilsner glass.
Lazarsfeld pointed to Waller, 10 years prior, when he wrote, “The moral standards of tomorrow are due to the extreme sensitiveness of a small group of intellectual leaders of today.” I think broadcasters of the 21st Century have filled this role today. Our Anderson Cooper’s, Diane Sawyer’s, Rush Limbaugh’s and Bill O’Reilly’s—they are aiding in shaping American views, morals and attitudes today. Some political figures, such as Presidents, presidential contenders, and vocal members of Congress are also weighing in on the moral fabric of America, and potentially ‘changing’ or ‘shaping’ the mass’s views through communication in broadcast, print and online communities.
I want to leave you with another parting thought from Lazarsfeld that we will inevitably speak to in class tomorrow:
“The world has a character of magic, where things happen and are invisible at the same time; many listeners have no experience of their own which would help them appraise it. We know that that sometimes has very disturbing effects…”